Monthly Archives: February 2017

Trump is not a xenophobe, just a skilled demagogue

Let’s assume that Donald Trump’ s intelligence and knowledge are at least on an average level, or higher. Then one must conclude that he not for a minute can believe that illegal immigration is the root of 30 year’s stagnation or decline in living conditions for ordinary Americans. However, he is a master demagogue and knows what upset people the most. And he used that skill to manipulate the democratic system and win his first election.

We’ve been through this before in Europe and it ended no good. Trump’s tactics regarding foreign people are similar to those used by fascists then.

With some simplification one may say that neoliberalism has been the cradle in which today’s neo-fascism was nurtured. It goes like this: unfettered capitalism fails and creates crisis of all kinds. The result is stagnation for a majority and fabulous wealth for a few, while everything in the common sector crumbles.

It’s no mystery who gains and who suffers from this focus on privatizing everything and destroying the commons. Those who profit are calling all the shots, not least in the media, and will certainly not spend any energy informing the public about the real causalities. When people finally runs out of docility, up comes the right-wing populists with their popular but false answers.

Immigrants are the easy targets for populists. (We all have some innate xenophobe traits and it takes conscious thinking to repress them.) But people’s real grievances have of course only marginally to do with immigrants. That should be particularly obvious for US citizens with their rich country’s entire wealth created by immigrants. Still the Stranger Card pays off for populists – big!

Sweden is known for its open borders. With the surge in refugees arriving we had last year the largest percentage population growth since 1861. Is this from benevolence only? Hardly! This is where immigration is hurting ordinary people to some degree, namely in holding down worker’s wages, something the ruling property owners find most welcome (here they have a common interest with humanitarian liberals).

That’s not to say that immigrants and refugees are responsible for ordinary people’s problems. The main reason for these problems is instead a power-grab by the ruling elite, the capital owners, by which they have impounded most of the economic growth the last 30 years and funneled it to very few pockets (more pronounced so in USA than in EU, and even less so in Sweden).

But nor is it to say that immigration is problem-free for the society as a whole or above all for the newcomers. They are forced to live in quite meager circumstances, have difficulty learning a new language and finding jobs. The Social network in Sweden is not what it used to be and people are left to solve their own problems, not an easy task for individuals fleeing war zones and burdened by traumatic experiences. Desperation sometimes leads to riots with violence and counter violence between immigrants and right-wing groups, which adds to the aversion against immigrants and refugees.

Donald Trump knows quite well that the immigrants to US didn’t cause the depressing conditions for people during neoliberalism. He just uses them as a potent political weapon among his deceived constituency. He is probably also aware of the real reasons for people’s grievances. He just acts like the businessman he is: go full ahead and don’t bother about consequence beyond the next quarter, regardless of how dire they are.

On the other hand Trump has shown some insight into what created the current, giant refugee crisis, namely West’s unwarranted wars in the Middle East and North Africa. His expressed ambition to withdraw US from these wars is a hopeful sign (and a significant deviation from historic fascist practices). But on this issue he is at odds with strong forces in both parties and the outcome of that remains to be seen.

Democracy as a Glass Bead Game for “academics”

Today’s New York Times has a piece titled Democracy in America: How Is It Doing?, presenting a study that excels in political scientists’ most dear subjects: formalities and instrumentalities forming a rather shallow analysis, if one by democracy means people’s real power. It’s of course presented with much (insipid) statistics and graphics. The summary of the study is: “Democracy in the United states is strong, but showing some cracks”.

I submitted the following lines to the NYT Readers Comments’ section:

Really prudent and knowledgeable American thinkers, most prominently Noam Chomsky, argues convincingly that today’s USA is a plutocracy, not a democracy at all. He bases his view on the fact that the economic powerful simply are able buy political decisions that are gaining their interests. This power mostly overrides voters’ real influence on politics, something that has been demonstrated in numerous polls (such as on health care).

Citizens United stands for legalized corruption on a limitless scale, not really intelligible for many outside US. That should have been be none of our interests, were it not for US being a role model followed by other states, not least Sweden, with some years’ or decades’ delay. So, let’s unite across oceans and reclaim real democracy.

 

Trump’s gaffe on Sweden, coming true

“More than half a century ago president Eisenhower sat the standard for mocking Sweden, when he publicly stated that suicides were more common there than elsewhere. The reason implied was that Swedes were so deeply bored in there cuddling socialist state that they didn’t want to live at all. The assertion about the suicides was in itself not true, of course (speaking of lying presidents), but it is still glued to the Swedish image in the whole world.

Eisenhower served an entry, and then it has just rolled on. Every small crack in the smooth facade of the idyllic social democratic paradise did create media frenzy (with mostly less correct reporting) and cozy schadenfreude. That provoking Nordic welfare country, number one in most rankings, was an aching thorn in the eyes of conservatives around the globe.

But the reactionaries may relax now. Sweden has been hit by neoliberalism (facilitated by a right-wing government) and is becoming increasingly compatible with rest of the industrial world. Welfare is fading and there is cause for grievances among the less affluent, a development that, not surprisingly, has handed xenophobes and the Alt-right considerable progress in public opinion. At the same time, economic gaps are widening faster than in other EU-countries. – So: SkÃ¥l, reactionaries of the world! Your future seems bright (but to the others: let’s disappoint them thoroughly!)”

This was a comment of mine on an article in New York Times that mentioned Trump’s gaffe about some attack in Sweden. A day later there really was riots and car burning in a Stockholm suburb, as if Trump were clairvoyant. That elicited the following answer to me in the comment section:

“Odd you say that, knowing that riots just broke out in Sweden. Guess which community areas? Isn’t it terrible when facts on the ground don’t cooperate with dogma?”

Well, I never said anything about a riot-free Sweden; I could have commented on the opposite.

Fascism – an ideology a la mode

If there is no indisputable definition of fascism there are anyhow specific characterizations of the phenomenon. The basic one, at the same time the most despicable, is lack of empathy for other human beings (outside a closed circle). Among fascists, the reasons for living are instead Race, Honor, War, Blut und Boden and equivalent concepts. (Empathy is something that a fascist occasionally may feel for animals.)

In line with these characteristics it follows that fascists see as deadly enemies all democratic movements in favor of equality and solidarity, such as labor movements and other associations engaging ordinary human beings. Fascists embrace mainly people and things that are strictly theirs in some sense, such as their ego, their family, their clan, their nation.

Fascism started, and is responsible for, the Second World War. It’s equally true, but nowadays repressed, that the Soviet Union carried by far the heaviest burden to defeat the worst and strongest of the monstrous fascist war machines. Soviet was then considered by many to be a workers’ state, and workers’ unions thus gained a strong position in most of Europe the years after the war.

This period have been called a Golden Age in industrialized countries. Economies flourished with high growth; income distribution was fairly equal (very much so by today’s standards), welfare measures were carried through and ordinary working families could acquire a comfortable life. Fascists were practically non-existent during these optimistic years (we had a few hibernating Nazis in Sweden, but they were commonly regarded as complete dimwits).

The backlash came in the late 1970s, when the capitalist class finally managed to regain political and ideological hegemony by using its economic power. In the name of neoliberalism, they could enable a strong reaction against wage workers’ acquired rights. Pitched as globalism, the new march backwards became international. One instrument of this redistribution of production results to the very rich was deregulation of the financial markets, resulting in repeated financial crashes hitting poor people the hardest.

With this capitalist reaction the groundwork for resurrection of fascism was laid. We had been through it once before in near history and should have learned, but those in real power doesn’t want us to learn. They obviously prefer fascism before progressive development that really deals with people’s grievances. The right wing paves the way for right wing extremism. Their most important objective is to keep progressives away from power.

A more polite term for right-wing extremism is populism, and both have kinship with fascism. The connections are illustrated in a recent article in New York Times dealing with the ideological preferences in the head of Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist in the most powerful administration in the world. He is said to be influenced by, or at least open to, the world of Julius Evola, an extreme traditionalist that inspired Mussolini and now is openly hailed by Alt-right leaders.

Evola himself broke with the Italian Fascists “because he considered them overly tame and corrupted by compromise. Instead he preferred the Nazi SS officers, seeing in them something closer to a mythic ideal. They also shared his anti-Semitism.” (Evola is called an influential “thinker” which is an odd epithet for a man who conspicuously prefer feeling ahead of thinking.)

Evola was Anti everything enlightened, rational, modern, liberal, progressive and humanitarian one can think of. An American scholar has described his ideal order to be based on “hierarchy, caste, monarchy, race, myth, religion and ritual”. This points a straight way back to the heart of medieval darkness. A way that Stephen K. Bannon, on the face of it, at least not entirely abstain from recommending.

All while our media are outraged by silly scandals, alleged leaks, fake news (including their own) and above all: The Russians. There is something rotten in the state of affairs, but it’s more dire than the headlines in our newspapers suggest.

The really hazardous side of Trump

When I was younger one could occasionally pick up the innocent notion here that everyone should be eligible to vote for the President of the United States, since the US had such an impact on the whole world. Naiveties like that are mostly gone nowadays, but in one respect they ought to be revived. And that’s about environmental issues.

US is the worst per capita polluter in the world, by a long shot. One emission that is harmful for everyone on earth is carbon dioxide. Alongside nuclear war, climate catastrophe is the greatest threat to survival of the human species. We’re not talking of some people, or even millions of people being exterminated, it’s literarily the entire human species that is at stake.

Global warming is accelerating at a terrifying pace with its deleterious effects measured almost day by day. Our grandchildren will experience changes in global weather never seen by mankind, most of those highly unfavorable. And that’s just the beginning.

In these dire straits a man elected President of the United States declares that he will do the outmost to enhance this treat to the human species, thereby supported by a Congress filled with likeminded climate deniers. To the latter’s defense one should admit that many of them believe Jesus to come back to earth and rescue them personally in a near future, leaving the rest to destruction. For them it’s at least logical to flout the end of humanity. They have rescued themselves by living an impeccable Christian life (voting for every immoral war possible).

To really underscore his fateful ambitions the President appoints a certain Scott Pruitt to be the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a man who according to his own website is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” This was already prepared for when a man named Myrion Ebell, a really dedicated climate denier, in September 2016 was appointed a member of the transition team, responsible for the EPA.

This is certainly a world that it takes a Jonathan Swift to describe and ridicule in a novel. Kafka would not be credible enough.